In the past couple of years I’ve participated in three of the top-15 (or so) marathon-length races in the country: the Boston and Chicago marathons and the Birkie. (Yes, if the 2016 Birkie was a footrace, it would be the 13th largest marathon-or-longer race in the country, between the Portland and San Francisco marathons.) When I run Boston, they charge me $180. Chicago: $195. New York is close to $300. Even smaller races like Grandma’s and the Twin Cities marathon have entry fees well over $100. The Birkie is comparatively cheap, at just $115.
And remember, all of those races don’t have to maintain their course: that’s done by the local highway department. Some are loop courses (Chicago, for instance) and don’t have buses to and from the start. They have to close down more roads, but they don’t have to mow or groom them. Or put down a fresh layer of asphalt on the finish.
I found an article about the Birkie from 1989 in the New York Times. Back then, race registration was $60, only half of what it is today, except that’s not adjusted for inflation. When you make the adjustment, it turns out the Birkie is cheaper now than it was back then: the $60 race fee in 1989 is equivalent to $122 today. It’s not cheap to run the second-largest bus system in the state, or groom nearly 100 kilometers of trails, or snow in a main street, but the Birkie makes it happen without breaking the bank. See you on the trails!